Thursday, November 15, 2018

Managing your lawn in drought and flood!

This post is provided by Lora Young.

Central Texas is officially drought-free after surviving a record-setting 271-week drought.  Even in a regular year, our lawns stand up to some brutal conditions. Getting the yard to withstand the heat of summer before the rainy winter takes a lot of maintenance and adjustments. If your lawn survived the drought and went on to tackle the floods from hurricanes Michael and Willa, it is time to get it back to healthy this year.

Choose low maintenance grass

If you lost your St. Augustine turf in the droughts earlier this decade, consider replacing it with Bermuda or Buffalo grass instead. The sod is more expensive per pallet, but Bermuda is resistant to most diseases and fungus, and Buffalo uses less water than most other turfgrasses. The lower maintenance costs of either grass can save you money over the life of the lawn.

Check for excess thatch

After the rough weather conditions of the decade, check for excess thatch in your yard. Thatch is the layer of dead and living grass stems, roots, and rhizomes that develops between your green grass and the soil. Thatch is a useful layer that can keep soil from eroding and provide insulation for the roots against extreme temperatures, but excess thatch can prevent water and oxygen from adequately reaching plant roots and soil.

Dethatch and compost

Ask your lawn care professional about using a core aerator to dethatch and aerate your lawn so that much-needed air can reach the root system. Afterward, top dress the lawn with a thin layer of compost so you do not choke out the grass you just uncovered. The rule of thumb used by professionals in lawn care in Round Rock, TX is to spread about ½ of an inch compost evenly in the spring.  

Use water efficiently

Regardless of your grass type, avoid narrow strips or odd shapes of turf grass that make it hard to water without waste. Water deeply twice per week in the morning to create strong roots that will withstand Texas weather. Consider converting some lawn to beds or ground cover to limit the amount of water used for landscaping. Surely the drought of 2010-2015 would not be our last.

Mow to the correct height

Believe it or not, mowing is the best way to control weeds and increase the density of your lawn. Use a mulching mower so that grass clipping remain on the yard and retain soil moisture as they act as a slow-release lawn fertilizer. Up to 1/3 of the nutrients, your grass needs can come from clippings. You will use less fertilizer, and it limits the amount of nitrogen and pollution in our aquifer and lakes.

The key is to remove about 1/3 or ½ of the grass blades when you mow. When the St. Augustine is in vigorous growth in the summer, you can mow as much as 1-2 inches each week. Bermuda should be cut down to about an inch above the soil and St. Augustine should be 2-3 inches long after mowing. If it is too long, the grass grows thin, weak and yellow and has more weed problems.

Thriving healthy turfgrass

St. Augustine and Bermuda have demonstrated that they are both hardy enough to survive the ups and downs of Texas weather. If you want your yard to thrive instead of simply survive, this is the year to get your lawn back in fighting shape. Mowing, fertilizing, and keeping weeds out of your turf grass will keep your lawn beautiful and healthy, but it will also contribute to clean air and water for everyone in Williamson County.

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